A nine-day vacation in Ireland to visit my youngest daughter studying abroad educated me on rugby, the popularity of Guinness, the challenges of true links golf, and the Emerald Isle's 40 shades of green, but it left me out of the loop on high school football happenings. Let's play catch-up.
■ After Hal Mumme brought his "Air Raid" passing attack to University of Kentucky football in the late 1990s, high school coaches across the state fell in the love with the spread offense. Pass-happy quarterbacks have been setting all kinds of passing records ever since.
This season, however, the pendulum may be swinging back toward the running game. At least it appears that way considering some of the performances we've seen in the last few weeks: Johnson Central's J.J. Jude setting a state record with 584 rushing yards against Woodford County; Danville's Patrick Brand chewing up 483 yards against Washington County; Greenup County's Corey Lyle piling up 451 against East Carter; Cooper's D'vontae Bradley gobbling up 410 against Conner; Central's Anthony Wales romping for 403 in a blowout of Shawnee, and Manual's DarMontre Warr going for 400 against Central.
That's not all.
East Jessamine's Cameron Thomas ran for 365 yards (on his way to 476 all-purpose yards) against Lexington Catholic, and Caldwell County's Brandon Sigler bolted for 329 yards against Reidland to break the school record of 280 set by his coach, David Barnes, in 1976.
How to explain the glut of ridiculous rushing numbers? East Jessamine Coach Mike Bowlin thinks a couple of factors are at work. One, there are a lot of talented running backs. Two, defensive coordinators are so concerned about being burned by the pass that they don't game-plan to stop the run. "Football goes in cycles," Bowlin said. "When we first had that quarterback surge, everybody was playing an eight-man front and (receivers) were wide open.
"Eventually everybody started rushing only three people and dropping eight to cover the pass. A lot of defensive coordinators are still doing that, so when they come up against a power team, you can put a special athlete at running back and he can get some really big numbers."
■ Butler's 42-41 victory over Pleasure Ridge Park two weeks ago had an ending that must be seen to be believed. Do yourself a favor and check it out on YouTube. After PRP scored with 1.8 seconds left to take a 41-34 lead and was getting ready to kick off, Butler Coach Scott Carmony said he told his players, "OK, boys, whoever fields it first, start throwing it around, and make sure you throw it backwards." Five laterals later, Brenton Caldwell finished off a chaotic 65-yard return for a touchdown. After a timeout, Carmony decided to go for the two-point conversion. QB J.D. Morgan ran it in for the victory. As the YouTube video shows, PRP's players stormed the field in the middle of Butler's kickoff return when the public address announcer mistakenly announced that the game was over when it appeared the Butler ball carrier had been tackled. But the Bears played on, and Caldwell raced to the end zone. The players on Butler's sideline flooded the field before Caldwell crossed the goal line, so officials could have flagged both sides. Instead, Carmony said the men in the striped shirts told him they were "going to call it even" and let the play stand. There was still so much confusion after the game that the team buses left Carmony behind. He hitched a ride back to Butler with his equipment manager. The following week, Carmony was besieged by national media after the video was posted on the Internet. ESPN, ABC News, CBS College Sports Network and CNN all interviewed him. "It got overwhelming," he said. "It's still hard to believe it all really happened."
■ Defending 3A champ Paducah Tilghman dealt Louisville Holy Cross its first loss of the season last week. Tilghman was without star and UK recruit Josh Forrest, who the previous week was ejected from a game for fighting and had to serve a one-game suspension. Rashad Brown picked up the slack. He ran for two TDs (58 and 54 yards), and caught two TD passes (49 and 96 yards).
■ Lamar Dawson, Boyle County's Mr. Football candidate, had a school-record 32 tackles in a win over East Jessamine. He has 109 tackles this season.
■ Warren Central rallied from a 14-0 deficit to beat Bowling Green 17-14 and keep the Purples from winning an eighth consecutive district title. Freshman Adel Muskic kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired to give the Dragons the victory.
■ Anderson County has kept its fans on the edge the last three weeks. Mark Peach's Bearcats outlasted Bullitt Central in overtime, rallied from a 27-point deficit to beat South Oldham, and clipped Oldham County in overtime. They blocked extra points in crucial situations in two of those games. The win streak rewarded Anderson County with its third district title in school history.
■ WLAP-AM 630's coverage of UK men's basketball on three Friday nights in November will preclude the radio station from broadcasting any high school football playoffs those nights.
■ Hopkins Central junior QB Lucas Crawley rushed for 212 yards and two TDs, and passed for 213 yards and two TDs in a win over Calloway County. On the season he has run for 1,275 yards and thrown for 1,014.
■ Ashland Blazer set a school record two weeks ago when it was whistled for 21 penalties (for 132 yards) in a win over Montgomery County. Six of the yellow flags were for illegal receivers downfield.
■ The KHSAA has reinstated 12 victories Highlands forfeited in the 2004 season for using an ineligible player, Michael Mitchell. That means the Bluebirds' history should be updated to note that Highlands got its 800th victory when it beat Manual to start this season. Also, the Bluebirds are now the state's winningest program with 807 victories (to Male's 806), and they have 55 consecutive winning seasons. The 12 wins also mean that Dale Mueller got his 200th victory as Highlands' coach when the Birds beat Eastern last month.
■ Where are they now? I came across a 1982 state football championship program and found four players in the finals that year who went on to become head coaches. Three of them played on Corbin's '82 title team: current Redhounds Coach Steve Jewell, former North Laurel coach Greg Duncum, and former Bell County coach Tom Greer. Also, Tom Spritzky, who was on Highlands' '82 championship team, is now coach at Dixie Heights.
■ Harrison County tied a school scoring record in its 77-13 rout of Bourbon County two weeks ago. (The Thorobreds beat MMI 77-0 in 1970). Junior running back Nick Slucher set a school record with 330 all-purpose yards. He ran for two TDs, caught a TD pass and returned a punt for a score.
■ Harlan sophomore QB Ty Saragas has been putting up impressive passing numbers in recent weeks, pushing his season totals to 1,267 yards and 17 TDs. Murph Howard set a school record with 25 TD passes in 1968 when his primary receiver was Larry Kirksey, who went on to coach at UK and in the NFL.
■ Ben Simms of Washington County had 11 catches for 171 yards, two TDs and a two-point conversion in last week's loss to Danville.
■ Three-time defending state soccer champs St. Xavier and Sacred Heart were knocked out of the playoffs Tuesday night. St. X's top-rated boys were upset 2-1 by No. 5 Collegiate. Sacred Heart's second-ranked girls were beaten 1-0 in a shootout by No. 4 Manual.
■ South Laurel senior soccer star Jeffrey Poston had 68 goals this season to break the state record of 64, set by Gabriel Zandonadl of St. Francis in 1997.
■ Berea sophomore striker Sydney Sandefur had a school-record 42 goals for the Lady Pirates' soccer team this season. She also had 10 assists and led the 14th Region in scoring.
■ Jimmy Long, who won 546 games in 31 years at Heath and Lowes, is the new boys' basketball coach at Fulton City. He has been out of coaching the last two seasons.